My Department is now at an advanced stage in its first phase of procuring new employment services. Phase One involves the procurement of regional employment services for seven counties in the Midlands and North-West across four lots where there is no existing local employment service.
The core objective of this procurement is to delivery high quality services to the people who need them. The employment and terms and conditions of employment of employees of contractors to my Department are the responsibility of their employers. This is the case for all contracted employment services.
I am conscious that a level of uncertainty for the employees of existing contractors arises as part of this procurement process in regard to whether their employer will wish to make a bid for the new model and whether they will be successful in doing so. Ultimately this is a decision of their employer and a matter of competitive procurement. However, I am confident that my Department's existing service partners are well placed provided they work collaboratively to succeed in the Phase 2 procurement process given their expertise, community linkages and track record.
In regard to the Phase 1 procurement underway, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on any individual circumstance. However, I can say that in cases where existing service-providers have earned preferred bidder status it is matter for them as employers how they wish to staff the delivery of the new contract. In regard to where existing providers in Phase 1 were either unsuccessful or did not wish to provide the new service I understand that the preferred bidders in these areas are having discussions regarding existing staff and appropriate employment opportunities. This is a very welcome development and I expect that their current employers and representative bodies will support these discussions.
The Request for Tenders for Phase two of the Regional Employment Service will be issued before year end, with an approximate deadline of March for tenderers. It is intended that the service will be in place from July 2022.
My Department is currently reflecting on feedback from Phase One and redrafting the Request for Tender as appropriate, specifically in relation to minimum referral numbers but also addressing issues such as up-front advances to assist cash flow for potential tenderers.
The current procurement of public employment services follows extensive consultations by my Department with the existing service providers and employee representatives over the last number of years. My officials are continuing this ongoing dialogue with the stakeholders and employee representatives.